For our series “A day in the life of...” for CAN Mezzanine, we interviewed Gary Phillips, Director of Sales and Marketing, about his 10 fulfilling years at CAN.
What were your key roles during your 10 years at CAN?
My first role was as an external business consultant, working on a 6-month project to make recommendations on how CAN could adopt and develop an effective sales culture within its organisation, to assist its rapid growth plans.
I then applied for a newly created position of Head of Sales, which I held for a year before taking on the combined role of Head of Sales and Marketing. As the organisation grew and my senior accountability increased, I was promoted in 2016 to Director, Sales and Marketing and became a member of the Senior Management Team. During this period, I have worked on promoting the CAN brand, maximising occupancy in our Mezzanine operation and developing commercial growth strategies for the CAN group.
What was it that made you want to join the team?
I was excited to join the Third Sector as I was hoping that the skills that I had learnt in the for-profit sector would benefit the team.
The team itself had great interest to me because it was smaller than I had been used to, more culturally diverse and they had an impressive range of commercial and social expertise from within the public, private and not for profit sectors. They had already achieved great growth and they were also very keen to develop further.
Which were the things you enjoyed the most in these 10 years at CAN?
Having the opportunity to work with over 500 organisations, meet amazingly talented and committed people and be introduced to so many charities that I would probably not have been aware of.
From a marketing perspective, I have enjoyed, along with the team, creating 3 new websites, sponsoring the Third Sector Charity Awards and launching CANNECT: an internal Facebook type portal for CAN’s customers to share information, promote events and book meeting rooms.
Finally, I have loved being part of the CAN team and I especially enjoyed our CAN Team Away Days. Three in particular: a day visit to a social enterprise in Kent: Sunlight Community Cafe.
The day there showed me the true values of a social enterprise, the real social value they created, and the lives that they changed and improved, this was inspirational.
The others were more social, seeing the team, practically demonstrate our values: Bold, Inclusive, Collaborative and Restless during a hotly contested table tennis tournament and bowling tournament - great fun!
What are your greatest achievements?
Two spring to mind:
The first, exceeding our occupancy targets and filling up our CAN Mezzanine in Borough and the BWB Charity Hub managed by CAN in Queen Street Place, both ahead of schedule.
Secondly, seeing all the great work the marketing team has achieved in moving CAN from “the best-kept secret in the sector” to its current position as the first choice for social office space in the not for profit sector.
What challenges have you faced?
The sector itself has seen many challenges in recent years: the difficult economic climate, reducing public support for the charity sector and the uncertainty of the effects of Brexit.
More relevant to our core market, we have seen rapid changes to the serviced office space and property sectors responding to the different ways we all now work compared to 10 years ago i.e. remote and virtual working.
We have seen new private competitors entering the market who have opened new offices in local areas who offer different ways of working.
However, it has been great to be involved in CAN’s commercial response: we are now offering new flexible desk options, re-positioning Mezzanine as the centre for true sector collaboration and have opened new Mezzanines, including the exciting brand-new purpose-built Loman Street office due to open in a few years.
Personally, the loss of my younger brother and best friend at 52 to Motor Neurone Disease was difficult to come to terms with. However, this loss showed me the importance of the support that charities provide, and I am very grateful to the MND Association, who are based in CAN Mezzanine Old Street for their amazing support through this period.
What have you learnt during these years?
The importance of being able to adapt to a very different environment and to appreciate and really value the fantastic work that both our customers and the social sector does for their beneficiaries.
I am regularly humbled by the personal sacrifice, kindness and commitment that people within the sector regularly demonstrate and this has encouraged me to try and apply this approach in the next stage of my life.
How do you imagine your life after CAN?
A little bit quieter and slower paced perhaps! I am going back to where I started my journey at CAN and offering Sales and Marketing consultancy services to the social sector, a few days a week.
On the other days, I hope to do some local voluntary work, with the elderly or homeless, spend more time travelling to see my family, who are spread between Bristol, France, Bournemouth and California.
If there is any time left it will be spent on my main hobby: vinyl record collecting.
How do you hope to see the sector developing?
I would like to see the sector continuing to develop creative alternatives and strategies to increase their income generation, becoming less reliant upon grants and fundraising and to adopt a social enterprise approach to growth, wherever possible.
I hope charities work better together and become even more collaborative, helping each other to become more sustainable and be able to naturally adapt and survive the challenging times ahead.
I would like to thank everybody that I have worked with over my 10 years at CAN and for helping me appreciate what good there is in society, the importance of inclusion and diversity and for giving me the encouragement to try and make more of a difference wherever I CAN in the future.
You could also be interested in reading:
- A day in the life of...Kirstin Ross, Director of Operations and Development
- A day in the life of... Aaron Gayle, Business Manager